The Bucs have a state-of-the-art setting for training camp, and one of the more unusual ones in the NFL
The NFL's 2006 season will take flight soon and, as it turns out, the baby Eagles will be the first ones out of the nest.
The veterans and rookies for all 32 NFL teams will report to training camp during a 10-game stretch beginning on July 20. The Philadelphia Eagles go first; specifically, Philly's rookies will start it all off by reporting to Lehigh University on the 20th, the third Thursday of July. The Eagles veterans will join in three days later, which is still earlier than every other team in the league. The Oakland Raiders are next, bringing the entire team in together to their Napa Valley camp spot.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will start their camp a week after the Eagle rookies, among a group of 11 teams reporting to their various locations on Thursday, July 27. Four teams share the distinction of reporting last, on July 30: Arizona, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Washington. The Buffalo Bills are the only team yet to announce their specific report dates.
The pattern of the staggered reporting dates is pretty simple to follow: The earlier you play your first preseason game, the earlier you go to camp. Teams are prohibited from requiring their veterans to report more than 15 days before their respective preseason openers. Tampa Bay's first game, at home against the New York Jets, is on Friday, August 11, so the 27th was its obvious target date for camp.
Yes, Philadelphia and Oakland meet in the first contest of the summer, the Hall of Fame Game in Canton Ohio on Sunday, August 6.
The Eagles' method of bringing the rookies in a few days before the veterans is relatively rare these days; only five teams have different reporting dates for the two groups this year: Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle and Washington.
When the Buccaneers do report on the 27th, it will be about halfway across the state, in the Central Florida towns of Celebration and Lake Buena Vista. For the fifth straight year, they'll train at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, which continues to put them in a small subset of the 32 camping teams.
The majority of the NFL trains either at their own facilities or at a nearby (or in a few cases, far away) university. Twelve teams stay home, to be specific, and 17 get another taste of college life. The Buccaneers used to be in that second group, as they spent roughly two decades training at the University of Tampa.
Now, however, they join Oakland and Dallas as the teams that have chosen unique camp settings. The Raiders hole up at the Napa Valley Marriott and the Cowboys seek the milder climes of Oxnard, California.
Most of the teams who choose college campuses for their camps head off to a site that is at least relatively close to their hometowns, usually just far enough away to get that secluded feeling. For instance, the Cardinals drive up from the valley into the mountains to train at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, getting the added benefit of cooler weather. The defending-champion Pittsburgh Steelers head over to Latrobe, Pennsylvania to train at Saint Vincent College, the Seattle Seahawks go to Eastern Washington University, and so on.
The Bucs get the same benefit of mild separation at Disney, which is about an hour's drive up I-4 from Tampa. It's too far for players to head home on a normal camp day but close enough so that family visits are possible.
The move doesn't do anything to improve the weather, however. Central Florida is every bit as hot as Tampa in the summer and perhaps even a bit more humid. Some teams, such as the Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs, who have trained in River Falls Wisconsin for years, seek out milder summers in hopes of getting in more work. The Buccaneers, however, have long subscribed to the notion that training in Florida's heat makes them more prepared to handle those conditions on game day than their opponents.
The Bucs use that first day, reporting day, to get the whole team in town (sometimes finalizing a contract or two) and go over what will be expected from the players over the ensuing three weeks. The first actual practice is on the morning of Friday, July 28. That session begins a string of nine straight two-a-days at the start of camp; the schedule eases up a bit as the team starts to play preseason games.
For a complete schedule of the Bucs' training camp practices, which are free and open to the public, click here.
For a closer look at the team's camp surroundings, click here.
For a complete list of NFL training camp sites and report dates, click here.